Friday, September 27, 2019

Cowboy Food and Drink Turns 15 and Gives Back

Cowboy Food and Drink in Chagrin Falls is celebrating their 15th anniversary, and in a big way. Each Sunday in September, they partnered with a local charity and a portion of all sales that day is being donated to the cause. This Sunday is the last one, and your meal can support United Way.
Now I had never heard of Cowboy Food and Drink before they contacted me to help promote the charity partnership, but Mr. H had! They've changed over the years and are no longer a honky-tonk bar with a mechanical bull. But the BBQ is still banging and Chef Stephen is putting out some pretty darn good Tex-Mex and American food from their kitchen and 500-pound Southern Pride Smoker.
Lucky for us, summer weather is still hanging on in Cleveland, so we settled in on the outdoor patio.
First to come out was a half-portion of the Potato Skins ($8) with jack, cheddar, bacon, scallions, and sour cream, but you can add BBQ pulled pork for $4. I haven't had skins with BBQ sauce or pulled pork before, but it totally worked.
Next up was an order of their Smokehouse Wings with Spicy Garlic sauce (17 types available). Served with their housemade Ranch, these wing were a real standout of the meal and Mr. H deemed them worth the drive alone.
The Chopped Cobb ($12) with smoked chicken, avocado, egg, tomatoes,  bleu cheese, and bacon didn't have very much lettuce and was forgettable.
But I wasn't there for a salad, I wanted BBQ! Next up was the BBQ Trio ($26) with brisket, smoked turkey, and pulled pork. The brisket immediately fell into our top three items of the meal, but that housemade sweet BBQ sauce was so good that I would have eaten any meat with it on it.
All good BBQ has to offer the classic sides, and this spot is no different. Leave the coleslaw behind, but the Mac + Cheese was everything you want this side to be and the BBQ Beans with brisket were also good.
Not pictured were the final meats, a House Recipe Smoked Sausage (two thumbs up), Smoked Half Chicken, and Baby Back Ribs. The ribs rocketed to my top dish of the evening, with incredible bark and the meat cooked just right. Chef Stephen even let us in on a few trade secrets. Honestly, our conversations with him were some of the best parts of the experience.

I love people with such a passion for their craft, and food always reflects that love and passion. This was really good BBQ, in my opinion. Plus, they have such a charitable environment at the restaurant that gives back year-round. But get in there this last Sunday to make the biggest impact.

8586 E Washington Street
Chagrin Falls, OH 44023
(440) 708-1011

Disclosure: All food was provided complimentary for me and a guest in exchange for help promoting their anniversary charity partnership. All opinions stated are 100% my own.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Molto Bene Italian Eatery

With the first day of fall upon us, I had a sense of urgency to tackle another restaurant off of my 2019 To Dine Challenge list.
Molto Bene Italian Eatery in Lakewood was one that I was really looking forward to. It's a really small restaurant with limited indoor and outdoor seating, and they don't take reservations. So be prepared to have a brief wait, but on a Saturday evening we never saw more than a 15-minute wait.
I had heard that the Arancini ($9) of rice balls filled with asiago cheese was a dish to not miss, and I agree! Way more cheese inside that most arancini, the perfect bite-size, and the blended sauces for dipping left us scooping out the remains. I'd have a hard time not ordering these every time. 
I was really torn between the Cavatelli della Casa ($18) topped with pomodoro sauce, light pesto sauce and calamari and the Fettuccine in Salsa di Aragosta ($25) topped with lobster meat, garlic, red pepper, and pomodoro sauce with white wine. So I asked our server, and she immediately guided me to the Fettuccine because they make those noodles in-house.
The sauce had nice, bold flavor and the portion wasn't overwhelming as many pasta dishes tend to be. I did ask for Parmesan cheese, because duh.

Mr. H ordered the Tortellini pancetta e broccoli ($17) with ricotta stuffed tortellini with bacon and broccoli, topped with pomodoro sauce. This dish didn't really meet our expectations. The sauce was a little bland, and there were only about three small pieces of broccoli.
Other pasta dishes on the menu sounded fabulous as well, so I'd suggest trying another one over the tortellini. But, as you can see, I was happy with mine!
We couldn't leave without a scoop of Gelato ($5), made daily. Pistachio for us!
I would give this restaurant another try for sure, but it didn't "wow" me for classic Italian food. I think there are some better options around town. If you've been, what dishes do you recommend? 

But the place is adorable, the family running the business was so kind and gracious, and it was lively without being loud. Family-friendly, and street parking was very easy to find. 

18401 Detroit Avenue
Lakewood, OH 44107
(216) 273-7333

Monday, September 23, 2019

Weekend Bites

I've had to work the previous two weekends in September (and another one this weekend, ugh) so I was beeeeeyond ready for this past weekend at home. The calendar got a little full, and I did head into it feeling a little overwhelmed. But, it ended up just perfect! We had a blend of friends, fun, adventure, and good food mixed with sleeping in, being productive around the house, and plenty of pooch snuggles.

It all kicked off on Friday with hosting the monthly ladies Happy Hour for my neighbors at my house. We rotate one Friday every month, the hostess puts out some food and everyone brings a drink to share. I've met some incredible women through this, and fall in love with my neighborhood just a little bit more.

Because I was so busy and on the road leading up to Friday, I decided weeks ago to call in reinforcements. Nobody in this household had time to menu plan, grocery shop, and make my buddy chef Jeff Jarrett to the rescue! And what a spread he brought.
Mr. H and I woke up on Saturday morning and headed towards Akron for an unusual excursion...a ride on the Goodyear Blimp!
He had won the package in a charity auction, and it was finally time to fly. We got to hear and see behind the scenes...
...with views as far as the eye could see.
We were up for about 40 minutes, which was just enough for me. My fear of heights didn't stop me from going, but I wasn't exactly comfortable. It kind of felt like a boat in the air with all the swaying. 

You'll hear more about our Saturday evening later this week, but Sunday brought a lot of chores around the house, a good healthy dinner, and then a late show at The Improv.
While the comedians weren't really my personal taste in humor, Mr. H just loves stand-up and he has been so supportive during this crazy work schedule so I was happy we went. 

I'm back on the road later this week for work, but this past weekend just emphasized how much I crave being at home and enjoying what our city has to offer. October, I see you on the horizon! 

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Michael Angelo's Winery

I finally had the chance to get out to Michael Angelo's Winery in Richfield, which opened last summer.
They focus on small-lot varietals with grapes from different regions. For $16.50, you can get a Flight with four 2.75 oz. pours. Since it was my first time, I went that route and selected the Bianco, Riesling, Pinot Noir, and the Wild Flower Cabernet Sauvignon.
I preferred the light-bodied, crisp Bianco from the whites, but the Pinot Noir was my favorite of the four. All were really easy to drink, and I'd happily head back to enjoy more of their wine in the pretty setting.

The winery is linked to the Bakery in Broadview Heights, so they are serving their signature baked goods and other light fare. It is not intended to be a full-service restaurant. You order your wine at one counter and they pour it right there, and you order food at another counter and it is delivered to your table. Personally, I'd love to see this change, as it's a tad annoying to have to deal with two different counters for ordering. But I don't mind that there isn't table service.

Mr. H ordered the Mahi-Mahi Tacos ($15), and he enjoyed them.
I had my eye on their pizzas, so luckily Crystal from Eat Drink Cleveland (Thanks again for the invite!) was there too and she and I shared the Honey Pepper Bacon ($15) with bacon, kale, and honey Aleppo pepper and the Fennel Sausage ($15) with Stracciatella sauce, fennel sausage, scallions and red onion (pictured below).
The flavors of the Honey Pepper Bacon were bolder but the pizza was lacking enough cheese, so we both leaned towards liking the Fennel Sausage one more. It was perfectly enjoyable, but I'd like to see more sauce (it was a bit dry) and slightly bolder flavor beyond the sausage itself.

I'll be ordering the Charcuterie board next time, because it comes with a whole roasted head of garlic!

The food is above average for a winery not focusing on being a full restaurant, in my opinion. So you can certainly fill your belly and there should be something on the menu for everyone (most dishes serve 1-3 people and can be shared). But you'll be heading there for the wine and the pretty setting. And maybe swing by the dessert cooler! 

There's indoor and outdoor seating, with different types of seating from bar to tables to seating around the firepit. There is plenty of parking available, unless they happen to be hosting a wedding or other large private event. If you have a larger party, a reservation is recommended.

Personally, I think this is a great addition to an area where there just isn't much available. But it's also worth the drive out.

5515 Broadview Road
Richfield, OH 44286
(440) 552-2815

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Event Recap: Taste of the Browns 2019

Monday night brought one of our favorite fall charity events, Taste of the Browns to benefit the Greater Cleveland Foodbank.
The event is held at FirstEnergy Stadium, with stunning views of downtown as the backdrop.
It gathers 20+ of Northeast Ohio's best chefs, each preparing a signature hors d'oeuvre.
Some of our favorite bites of the night included the Seared Duck with Fried Farro from Flour, Veal Bolognese (pictured bottom right) from Johnny's Downtown, Seared Ahi Tuna with Mexican Street Corn (pictured top left) from Pier W, Lobster Bisque from Blue Point Grille, Tuna Tartar "Rocco" Taco from Fahrenheit (pictured above), and Avocado Leaf Braised Lamb (pictured bottom left) from Momocho.
And, the one bite that I took seconds of...Salted Caramel Bread Pudding from Heck's Café. I'm not even a dessert person, but man was that good!
The event isn't only just full of good food, but fantastic auction and raffle prizes...
...and celebrity sightings from current and former Browns players, local media faces, and my personal favorite...Chomps.
But the event's true purpose is to raise funds to provide meals in local hunger centers across Northeast Ohio. The 21st anniversary Taste of the Browns raised more than $350,000. This will provide a record-breaking 1.4 million meals!

Disclosure: I was provided with two VIP tickets in exchange for help promoting the event. I am a former employee of the Greater Cleveland Food Bank. All opinions stated are 100% my own.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Blu, the Restaurant Opens in Beachwood

When I heard the news that the historic Moxie steakhouse in Beachwood was closing to renovate and refresh into a new seafood restaurant concept for the same management group, I have to say that the thought of another seafood option in town excited me. We just don't have enough in Northeast Ohio.

Enter Blu, the Restaurant. So when I had the opportunity to sample the new menu with a small group of food writers and social influencers, of course I jumped at the chance. We were treated to four courses, highlighting a little bit of everything.
With a raw bar prominently visible in their dining room, the meal had to kick off with the Seafood Platter for Four ($90) which includes oysters, shrimp cocktail, ceviche, trout pate, Alaskan King Crab and Maine lobster. The octopus ceviche and trout pate were highlights for me!
Then came my favorite dish of the night, the Scallops St. Jacques ($18) with mushrooms, white wine, Gruyere, and breadcrumbs. Seriously, I woke up the next morning still thinking of them and I will be back for more.
But the other dishes in this course did not disappoint either, like the BBQ Octopus ($14) with pickled chili, chive cream and crispy fingerlings.
The last savory course brought us a 20 oz. Bone-in Ribeye ($52) with housemade steak oil (they aren't just seafood!) and the Whole Snapper (Market Price) with rice flour, chili black bean, sofrito, scallions and cilantro.
While both were good, they didn't impress me as much as the side of Spinach & Ricotta "Gnocchi" ($18) with house made ricotta and Parmesan cheese (gf).
The history and people of Moxie are still there, but the space underwent a $500,000 renovation and they shifted gears with the menu's focus. This tasting wet my palate enough that I do want to head back soon to explore the menu more on my own. And order more scallops, duh!

3355 Richmond Road
Beachwood, OH 44122
(216) 831-5599

Disclosure: I was invited with a guest to attend an introductory event with complimentary food and wine. All opinions stated are 100% my own.